January is the National Prevention of Birth Defects month, and on this occasion we will talk about Microtia, which is a deformity that is noticed at birth and it creates a “small ear”.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one in every 6,000 to 12,000 children who are born in the USA, is born with Microtia, which generally is more common in boys than girls and almost double the number of microtia cases occurred in the right ear in comparison with the left.
In some cases, the child has the deformity in one ear, in both, or does not have any ears. The cause is unknown, but it is more common in Latino or Hispanic children who were born in the Andes, in people of Asian ancestry and in Native Americans.
Many times, when parents see their son or daughter with this condition, before obtaining more information, they are traumatized. They may blame each other for the condition of the newborn. This is why is important that the community learns about microtia.
In July of 2011, Liliana (Colombian) and John Herbstreith (American), a biracial couple married many years, welcomed Roman, their first son. When Roman was born, his parents noticed that his right ear was not formed, and hours later, the hospital doctors tested him and informed the new parents that he did not pass the hearing test in the right ear.
Days later, Roman was referred to the children’s hospital, where his parents were informed that he had Microtia, in the third degree.
There are several types of Microtia. First degree is when the ear is smaller than normal but it is completely formed. Second degree occurs when the ear has a deformity in the upper part but the auditory canal can be very small or nonexistent. Microtia in the third degree occurs when the ear is completely deformed, and it looks like a peanut shell. There is no external ear. In the fourth degree, the child is born without both ears and does not have an auditory canal.
Usually, children with Microtia, need aids to improve their hearing like the Baha implant, that is surgically placed and is used by many people to help to improve their hearing, but Roman’s parents decided not to use it.
With respect to having another ear, Roman’s parents were told that when he is 9 or 10 years old, he will have the option of surgery, because at that age the human ear is the size of an adult ear and there is a surgical process, where the surgeon extracts a cartilage from one of the ribs to form the ear and after two additional surgeries it appears to be normal.
There is also the option of a prosthesis, where an ear is made out silicone. but it can fall off and children must take extra care when they play sports.
The fact that they have to wait for almost 10 years for the surgery worried Roman’s parents, due to the psychological effects physical deformity can have for a child with Microtia, as well as taunting from other children.
Nonetheless, after researching on the internet, the Herbstreith family found information from Doctor Sheryl Lewin, a Californian surgeon who for several years has been performing ear reconstruction for children with Microtia using a material called Medpor.
Medpor is an implant made of bio-compatible polyethylene, which is molded in the shape of the patient’s ear and then covered with human tissue from the body. This option permits children to have the surgery as early as 3 years old.
After waiting one year to have the surgery, that would cost over $40,000 without health insurance, Roman (barely three years old) traveled with his family to California at the end of June to have the reconstructive surgery. The day before the surgery, Doctor Lewin had a consult in her office in Santa Monica with Roman, where she took several photographs and examined his ear to make the mold with medpor. The next day, in a surgery that lasted 9 hours, Doctor Lewin and her medical team reconstructed Roman’s ear.
In an interview with Go! Latinos Magazine, the specialist stated that she has performed over 800 reconstructive surgeries. She informed us that she performs 3 surgeries weekly for patients who come from different parts of the country and all over the world. Providing the best care, she performs the procedure and offers them a better chance in life. “I have been performing this type of surgery for over 10 years and my goal is that children afflicted with this condition will have an ear almost the same as the one that is not affected by microtia, and above all, that they will feel whole”, said Lewin.
Equally, the surgeon, has a special interest in helping the Hispanic community, and through the non-profit foundation that she created and named “Earicles”, offers information, research, treatments about microtia, and also perform surgeries free of charge or at a reduced costs for children with scarce resources.
“I was born and was raised in Southern California and I have always been surrounded by Hispanic people, a very friendly and united community”, affirmed the surgeon. Through Earicles, Lewin has been able to provide free surgeries for Hispanic children. In 2013, Earicles sponsored 3 reconstructive surgeries and 5 reduced costs surgeries and for 2014 she has done the same. As a matter of fact, a few months ago, Doctor Lewin went to Colombia and Ecuador to offer informative conferences about microtia and the options of reconstructive surgery with medpor. She perfomed surgeries free of charge in California for several Ecuadorian children, the country with the highest index of children with microtia.
If you have a child with microtia or you know someone who needs help with microtia tell them about this article and tell them about Earicles Miracles for Ears to receive help. Earicles depends on donations from the community and any amount of money helps to support children with scarce resources to have access to this type of surgery. Those interested in supporting the foundation can do it through the Facebook page named “Earicles-Miracles for Ears”. For more information in the Web page http://microtiaearsurgery.com
Haz clic para leer en Español: “Earicles miracles for Ears” ayuda a niños que nacen afectados por la Microtia